A Matter of Trust

In studying the business applications of being a personal trainer, there was a comment that piqued my interest:

Within 6 to 9 months of becoming certified, if you are not getting 75% of new clients via referrals, you’re doing something wrong.

This is particularly interesting to those in service-based industries. Getting new clients is generally extremely lucrative, and many businesses would be prepared to pay hefty fees to bring in new clients. However, the vast majority of their new clients don’t have any costs associated with them.

Word of mouth is the best way to draw in new business, and there is no reason why any business owner need have any difficulty in this manner. Treat your clients well, and they will, in turn, pass your name along to their associates. Establish trust with people, and they will reciprocate over time.

Additionally, there is no reason not to try to use this method of bringing in new business. You should be treating your clients well, because in service-based industries, that is precisely what you are being paid to do. While this may not be true for every client, treating them well in general will see your clients treat you well – with respect, courtesy, and understanding as you may need it.

For example, I try to be generous with my referrals – but only in terms of whom I will give a referral to. That is, if you ask me if I know someone who can fill a particular role, I would be happy to provide such a recommendation – if I know and trust someone who can fill that role. Getting onto my list of people I refer, however, is much more difficult, as competency and courtesy must be established before I will consider giving the referral.

Over time, this has benefited me, and so most of what I’m doing could be considered selfish. As a result of the dozens of referrals I’ve given out, I have in turn been referred a few times, but every time that has happened, the value of that one referral has shown that it is worth considering others. No, I don’t demand, expect, or even hope for reciprocity every time I give someone a referral. But I know that by doing so, somewhere down the line, a referral will arrive.

I’ve been consulting for several years. As of right now, I have only one client who was not the result of a referral. That’s how service-based businesses work – I provide one client with a service, he mentions my name to his friend, who in turn becomes a client. She mentions me to a colleague, who also becomes a client. I earn each referral (or at least, I try to) by providing that client with the best service I can.

At the end of the day, this is all a matter of trust.